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Lebanese Vulnerable With Poor Health Facilities

Lebanese Are ‘Especially Vulnerable’ With A Quarter Of Health Facilities Not Working: UN

New York, Sep 6 2006 1:00PM

More than three weeks after the cessation of hostilities in Lebanon, people are “especially vulnerable” because a quarter of all health facilities surveyed in a recent countrywide assessment are not functioning due to physical damage, lack of staff or lack of accessibility caused by the recent fighting, the United Nations health agency said today.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which carried out the survey with the Lebanese Ministry of Health, looked at more than 400 hospitals, dispensaries and other facilities in areas most affected by the 34-day conflict and also warned that lack of drinking water and fuel remain a serious concern.

“In some areas of Lebanon, people simply cannot access a functioning health facility. Either it has been seriously damaged, or doesn’t have the water, fuel or supplies required to provide life-saving services including emergency obstetric care,” said Dr Ala Alwan, the WHO Director-General’s Representative for Health Action in Crisῥs.

“As Lebanon moves to early recovery, funds are critical to re-establish health services for all. People are especially vulnerable now, as many have lost their homes and livelihoods. They may not be able to afford basic health care.”

The assessment finds that damage to buildings varies drastically from one place to another and that in total, 26 per cent of all health facilities surveyed are not functioning due to physical damage, lack of staff or lack of accessibility. A total of 12 buildings were totally destroyed and 38 severely damaged, with the most damage in the southern town of Bent Jbeil, followed by Marjayoun and Nabatieh, and also in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

The findings are critical to determine priorities in the early recovery of Lebanon’s health system, the WHO said. The assessment provides the basis for the Early Recovery Strategy for the Health Sector in Lebanon that calls for around $13 million to restore access to critical health services for the just over 1 million people most affected by the recent conflict.

The survey also shows that serious shortages of fuel, power supply and drinking water continue. In general, only one third of health facilities have potable water, and just one in four remain linked to the general sewerage system or to a power supply. Further, 31 per cent use generators but less than one in five has enough fuel to run them.

The assessment also highlighted shortages of health workers, including general practitioners as well as specialists in obstetrics and surgery, and warned that nursing staff levels are just a quarter of what they should be. Some of these staffing gaps predated the conflict, but like many people, health workers also fled the hostilities and some have not yet been able to return to work.

Ends

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